Tuesday, 19 March 2013
Quinkan Rock Art Galleries
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) Cape York's Quinkan region is home to rock art galleries and cultural sites of great cultural significance, with some sites dated to 30 000 years old,
(ii) much of this art and cultural heritage is not adequately protected and is open to mining exploration activities, and
(iii) the traditional owners of the Quinkan region want the Quinkan rock art galleries and surrounding cultural landscapes fully protected from mining exploration and other destructive activities, and support its inclusion in a World Heritage nomination for Cape York Peninsula; and
(b) calls on:
(i) the Queensland Government to refuse any mining exploration in the Quinkan rock art galleries until the area is declared a World Heritage Area, and
(ii) the Federal Government to step in to protect the Quinkan rock art galleries and surrounding cultural landscapes from all mining activities, until the area is declared a World Heritage Area in accordance with the wishes of the traditional owners.
I would like to first acknowledge the presence in the public gallery of some traditional owners from the Cape. It is their homelands that will be affected by Gina Rinehart's application to mine these ancient Indigenous rock art galleries, some of which are more than 30,000 years old. In a motion that has been worded to call on this federal government to do everything it can to protect these rock art galleries—which the traditional owners want to be protected under a World Heritage listing that has not yet been delivered—I think it is a craven shame that this chamber is not lifting a finger to express its concern and its desire to protect these ancient cultural sites. I would just like to apologise to the folk in the gallery for the result today and let them know that the Greens are behind them and we do not give up.
Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I too acknowledge my friends and the people from Cape York who are joining us here in the chamber today. I also indicate to the chamber that it would be very terrific if people could join with us this evening to have a conversation about what we need to do to work collaboratively together to ensure that we do get a World Heritage outcome for Cape York Peninsula. In saying that, I do say that this is not the way—to use notices of motion—to resolve complex and difficult issues. I distance myself from the actions of the Greens today to use a simple mechanism in the Senate to make a political point when in fact what we are trying to do is very complex.
It is good to see people from Cape York in the chamber, and they are always welcome. I well remember how the Labor Party's wild rivers legislation would have impeded the future development projects of the people who live in the Cape. Of course, the natural heritage proposal is one that there is little detail on and we do not know whether that will impede upon the future of Indigenous people. Can I also say in relation to the specific motion—and I agree with Senator McLucas that this is not the right way to do it—that my reading of newspapers indicated that Ms Rinehart had quite forcefully said that, if there were any mining in that area, these very valuable and ancient rock paintings would not be in any way impacted upon, and I think it is disingenuous of the Greens to make statements in this chamber suggesting to the contrary.